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I grew up here in Denver and I loved Purim because it was one of my dad’s favorite Jewish holidays. Every year, he would pick my younger brother, Kevin, and me up at Temple Emanuel on Sunday morning after religious school – I would be dressed up as Queen Esther, in my finest princess costume, and Kevin looked adorable in his crown and King Ahasuerus attire. Together we would all eat our favorite Piccolos pizza, sample hamentashen and try our best to win the coveted goldfish at the annual carnival.
Now as a parent of two young children (Levi, 8 and Aviva, 5), I realize that my own fond childhood memories have encouraged me to learn even more about the meaning of Purim. I also want to create new ways for my children to experience the joy of giving, which is at the heart of this festive holiday.
Today, I find myself in a wonderful new role as the Interim Director of MazelTogether. The mission of this program, which has been generously supported by the Rose Community Foundation, is to find innovative and meaningful ways for families with young children to connect to Jewish life.
In that spirit, my incredibly talented team (Jennifer Abrams, Bethany Friedlander, Talia Haykin) and I wanted to create easy, fun ways to build community and inspire our over 1100 members to try something different this season. We decided to experiment this year, starting with the Purim Basket Brigade.
We also thought that if we were seeking to inspire others to try and take on these Purim baskets, it would be fun and helpful to first try it ourselves. (I remember receiving my first mishloach manot basket from a neighbor years ago and was so touched by the kind gesture and curious why they were leaving treats on my front porch).
So, with the help of our incredible partners JEWISHcolorado and the PJ Library team, we collaborated on this project. Talia Haykin, our content director who also lives in my neighborhood, and I started by reaching out to other neighbors who l we knew also received PJ library books and might be interested in joining us to make mishloach manot baskets.
After sending an email to neighbors that lived close, we set time to meet on a Sunday afternoon (post-nap time of course) to assemble bags of treats for our neighbors. We decided to make the little butterfly bags (see below for instructions and supplies) and supplement them with some organic fruit treats, cuties and hamentashen. I headed to the craft store to pick up some of the supplies and then to Costco for the edible items. (Who knew Costco had such delicious and Kosher hamentashen!)
The day of, our neighbors walked over and we starting kibbitzing… new families connected, the kids played and enjoyed decorating the bags while the older children glued the pipe cleaners and googly eyes on the top of the clothespins and used glitter to decorate. The smallest kids were the runners of items to the paper bags, while the older kids worked to count up all the bags until we had 30 completed. Everyone had a role, from young to old, and as a small slice of our neighborhood, we worked together to do a mitzvah. It took us about an hour and a half and it was just so much fun!
And… MazelTogether families… you still have time to do something fun and small for Purim. (If you want to do a gathering, you can apply here for some money to help you cover the cost of supplies).
Grab a paper bag, make (or buy) some Hamentashen), put some candy or fruit and deliver it to a neighbor. See here for some ideas. Purim reminds us that it just feels so good give a gift with no expectation of anything in return.
While I still love the Purim Carnival at Temple Emanuel, making these Purim baskets – mishloah manot – for the first time really elevated the spirit of the holiday for me.
My dad still loves to come to the Purim carnival, and now he comes with his grandchildren. This year I’ll bring him one of my mishloah manot bags as a gift, because now that I am the parent, I can share a little something else that I learned about Purim with him… which makes it even more special.